By Rebecca LaFlure
Killeen Daily Herald
After a unanimous vote Wednesday, the board of trustees named Dr. Robert Muller superintendent of the Killeen Independent School District.
Muller has inherited a serious undertaking with the district's projected $5 million budget shortfall for next year, and fluctuating enrollment numbers tied to local troop movements.
But Muller insists his new job is more of an opportunity than a challenge. He signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $215,000.
"I look forward to working with the board as we prepare students for academic excellence, and as we work to implement programs that provide students with significant opportunities for future success," Muller said in his acceptance speech.
"I am committed to supporting the classroom and ensuring that the district's culture is one characterized by high standards and insisting that as an organization, we are responsive to our publics."
KISD administrators and faculty members showered Muller with a standing ovation after the announcement was made.
As superintendent, Muller is responsible for more than 39,000 students, 5,500 employees and a $350 million annual budget.
Muller said his initial focus is on the budget-making process and researching details of the federal economic stimulus package.
KISD will receive an estimated $11.19 million for special education and low-income-student programs, according to the Congressional Research Service.
"The stimulus package will give us a tremendous opportunity to look at some intervention programs for some of our most at-risk students," Muller said.
Muller said KISD's predicted enrollment decline has been adjusted from a predicted drop of 1,600 in students to a decline of about 1,200, based on updated troop movement information from Fort Hood.
Muller said he's unsure how, or if, this will affect KISD's estimated $5 million budget cuts for next year.
He said his five goals for KISD are to achieve and maintain academic excellence, support teachers, ensure financial accountability, develop future leaders and actively respond to the community.
Joe Maines, board of trustees president, said he admires Muller's leadership style, demeanor and ability to work well with his staff.
Muller's biggest challenge will be the district's ever-changing student population, Maines said.
"Fort Hood's moving about 8,000 troops, and we'll have to see what that translates into the student population and personnel," he said. "It's a real tough situation to deal with."
Phillys Hill, an elementary instructional leader, said it's Muller's ability to balance strength with compassion that will make him an effective leader.
"He's one of the smartest leaders I know," she said. "He has the best interests of the students at heart in every decision he makes."
Muller has worked for KISD since 2003 in a number of positions, including deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent for administration and operations and executive director for student services.
He was named KISD's interim superintendent in October.
Before coming to KISD, Muller served as superintendent of the Van Alsteen school district. He also has been a high school principal, a teacher and a coach.